Learning to Run

10/04/2010 01:26 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Maria Rodale CEO and Chairman of Rodale, Inc. and book author

I used to be a runner. A long, long time ago. Not the kind who raced or anything, or felt part of a running community, but the kind who ran for fitness. In 1985, I was 24 (had a 4-year-old kid) and weighed 115 pounds. I also rode my bike and lifted weights. I was totally buff and had a really hot secret boyfriend with six-pack abs. Now, I weigh more than he did then--and probably more than he does today.

I have excuses galore. I got busy. I started working long hours. I met an Italian and learned to cook. We got married and had kids and bonded over food. I worked even harder and took care of an ailing mother for many years. For years, I was slightly ashamed that I was an owner of Runner's World magazine but didn't really care for running. But something clicked this year and I decided it was time for me to get back in shape. No diets for me--it's all about exercise, and that means running, not walking.

All my peers who used to run slowed down and got knee replacements and hip replacements. But thanks to 15 years of yoga, my knees actually feel better than ever before. However, I had a weird toe ache. So first I checked in with "Doctor" Budd Coates, our amazing fitness director and super runner, and he made me stay off my foot for a few weeks (which I did for two whole days in Tennessee), and it did the trick! I started taking omega-3s (Wholemega by New Chapter). Then, I received a wonderful gift of Adidas Adizero Tempo running shoes from David Willey, editor at Runner's World. He had heard me complain that my feet get hot when I wear any sort of sneaker, so he found a shoe that not only keeps me cool, but also is light as air and actually makes me feel like running.

Add to all this the fact that my kids go to school with Marc Parent's kids...he writes the newbie running column in Runner's World, and I had watched him make the transformation from, well, charmingly doughy to lean and glowing. So I was inspired. I told my husband I was going to run and he, as usual, thought I was joking but offered his full support.

So, we live on this hellaciously hilly three-mile loop. It's got hills so steep that you can almost reach out and touch the road in front of you. But the hardest part wasn't the hills, it was getting out the door. My kids have never, ever been the type to cry when I drop them off at school or leave for work. They are used to it. But something about saying I was going for a walk...without my 4-year-old...made her cling to my ankle and scream as if the world was ending and we were parting forever. She did it the first few times. But each time, the crying got less dramatic and the hills got slightly easier. I've seen the scale move in the right direction for the first time in literally 24 years.

The happiest moment was the other evening when I was riding my bike on the front porch (more on that in another blog post!). Lucia came outside in bare feet with a tablecloth tied around her neck like a superhero. We have one of those circular driveways that we often walk around...but she ran. She flew like the wind, bare feet racing and cape billowing out behind her. She even ran around the part where I couldn't see her and she was alone. As she came around the bend towards the front porch huffing and puffing and smiling, she said, "I went for a run!" And I knew that even though what I was doing was hard, it's not just right for me, but it's right for her, too.

We are both learning to run.

How do you fit fitness into your life?

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